I had an interesting conversation this week…this person is a relatively new manager of a group of five people, and is currently receiving a bit of push back from a couple of his employees. The push back they are getting is seemingly innocuous in that they are providing responses to new work with comments such as “Oh I am really flat out right now, I don’t really have the capacity to take that on”. At face value, this comment may not seem such a big deal, but in the context of a new manager trying to figure out how his team works, it is telling.

So what exactly is the problem?

Part of the problem is that the employees are testing their manager, and are most likely not doing this with any mean intent, but it is a fairly natural response for people to want to test some boundaries. That employee who pushes back with great politeness is highly likely to make comments to his/her own colleagues along the lines of…”I can’t believe my new manager keeps loading me up with work. He has no idea what I really do, and without me, he’d be sunk! See how he likes it if I leave!”

Now I am making some big assumptions here, but I have heard these types of conversations in the workplace to know that this kind of communication is not uncommon, and it is incredibly destructive.

If nothing is done, the push back will continue, things will fester, and productivity and morale will reach an all time low.

A potential solution is to get some clarity around each team member’s roles and responsibilities. A great way to do this for a small team, is with a team workshop, where each persons roles and responsibilities are laid out as a process, showing Inputs, outputs, suppliers and customers, for each element of their role.

The benefit of running such a workshop is that clarity is gained in a very objective manner. There is no discussion about how busy people are, which is always subjective, but instead the discussion focuses on exact tasks and activities and then how each role interacts with the other. In other words, the focus is on the role, not the person.

But what can be uncovered is where roles have extra capacity, or where there can be a reshuffling of tasks. Or you may have people in your team that have untapped creative genius! Just imagine if you could uncover hidden talent, and then allow people to use it – the contribution of your staff would increase, and your business will grow without having to employ additional people.

The outcome of a Roles and Responsibilities Workshop are:

  1. Revision or creation of:
    • common vision and goals,
    • position descriptions
    • changes to roles and responsibilities
    • organisational structure
  2. Skills and abilities recognised and maximised within the team
  3. A more cohesive team that is willing and able to work together.

The underlying issues may be deeper than what has been described above, but getting clarity around roles and responsibilities is certainly a worthwhile exercise on the road to high performance.